The fun continued in Kauai when we loaded up the cars and drove to Kōke‘e State Park for an easy to moderate hike. A hike our entire group could navigate and which held the promise of standing above the Waipoo Falls, and looking out over the Waimea Canyon.
We enjoyed our walk along the well-marked trail through the forest. The flowers, of course, caught my photographic eye while the rest of the gang picked and tasted blackberries.
Much of the trail was flat, with an occasional elevation gain or loss. At the fork, we took the Canyon Trail to the left. A few yards later, we encountered at least a 3-foot drop-off, requiring a jump or slide on our backsides. Sliding seemed the better choice for me.
A few people ahead of us struggled to navigate the drop but made it unscathed. Most of our group managed it without too much difficulty. Unfortunately, Jon’s trekking poles were of no use. Somehow, his foot and ankle got stuck in a tree root, and he couldn’t pull free. Our son, Kevin, and another hiker helped him get loose and on his feet. Whew! Disaster averted.
The falls were not too far ahead, so we continued until we encountered another drop. While we contemplated this new obstacle, someone coming toward us said there were three more drops—some worse than the last—so we turned back, not wanting to chance an injury.
Back at the fork, we took the trail on the right, which led to the Cliff Trail Lookout. This was more our speed, and the view of Waimea Canyon made it clear why it is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.
While gawking at the view and taking photos, we heard goats bleating. We scanned the cliff on the other side of the canyon but weren’t sure the white specks we saw were actually goats. Jon zoomed in with his 300 mm camera lens and captured a few on the cliffs.
These goats are the descendants of goats introduced by English sea captain George Vancouver in 1792. Since their arrival, they have sped up the erosion of the canyon walls. Not a good thing.
The ‘Ōhi’a tree is one of the most populous trees in the state. Whether grown as a small bush or trimmed into a tree, their gnarly growth pattern and colorful flowers are distinct and easy to spot. As a native of Hawaii, the tree has the honor of taking root first in fresh lava, even before the volcanic gasses dissipate nearby. They break down the rock and provide a more hospitable spot for other plants to grow.
When hiking around, be aware that the ‘Ōhi’a tree is under attack by two species of fungi. If you see leaves on limbs or the crown of the tree turn yellow or brown, notify the Kaua’i Invasive Species Committee at email@example.com, or 808-821-1490. For more information and to learn how to prevent spreading the fungi, go to https://cms.ctahr.hawaii.edu/rod.
So how did this tree come to be in the hostile volcanic rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? In one account, Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, plays the villain in the myth of the lovers ‘Ōhi’a and Lehua. Pele desired ‘Ōhi’a and offered her love to him. ‘Ōhi’a’s love for Lehua was so strong he rejected Pele’s advances.
In revenge, Pele turned ‘Ōhi’a into a tree. A distraught Lehua pleaded with Pele to return ‘Ōhi’a as he was. Understanding Lehua’s loss, Pele turned Lehua into a beautiful flower in the tree so that the lovers shall remain forever together. In another account, it was a group of gods, not Pele, that made Lehua into a flower.
On the way up to Waimea Canyon, we had spotted the Red Sand Falls, or Red Dirt Waterfalls, so we stopped on our way back down to see this interesting scenery. Created by Mother Nature, the dirt is composed of oxidized iron-rich basalt rock that surrounds Waimea Canyon, and the falls carry it downstream.
A few precautions when visiting this area:
- Don’t drink the water because it contains high levels of insoluble iron and aluminum oxides that may make a person sick.
- Be sure to wear proper shoes when walking on the rock because it can become slippery during wet conditions.
- Don’t jump into the water because it is too shallow and can cause an injury.
There’s a prettier spot below where we stopped, but we were all craving poke, so we didn’t bother to stop again. Ishikara Market in Waimea was the place to go for poke. Add on rice, seaweed salad, or other deli items for a satisfying lunch.
More Kauai adventure continues in our next post.